Pagan Community Notes: Native American Heritage Month begins, Walter Mercado dies, “witch bottles” and more!

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TWH – November is Native American Heritage Month in the United States, and offers the opportunity to honor the many tribes of indigenous peoples of North America by recognizing their many sacrifices, achievements, and contributions.

The history of abuse, violence, and discrimination of Native Americans began with Europeans coming to the shores of North America, but it continues in the modern era.

Polls and studies show glaring disparities between Native Americans and non-Native Americans. On average, Natives have shorter lifespans by 5.5 years compared to all other races according to a report issued by Indian Health Service (IHS) in October of 2019.

A survey titled, “Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of Native Americans” that was conducted by National Public Radio (NPR), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2017 highlighted the levels of discrimination Native Americans experience, as well as the misconceptions that many of general public and non-Natives hold when it comes to how they perceive Native culture.

A project started in 2016, by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) and Echo Hawk Consulting (EHC), “Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions” which was funded in part from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, sought to not only clearly define the level of discrimination Native populations experience, but to also create a new narrative that would help dispel many of misconceptions associated with Native peoples. The project was completed and published in May 2018.

The contributions of Native Americans can be found in the warp and weave of our collective tapestry that is American culture. Whether it is to be found with literary works, art, mythology, or even in the many words we use every day that are derived from Native languages, the influence and impact of Native American culture is everywhere and deserves honor, respect, and celebration.

 

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Witch bottles – image credit: Malcolm Lidbury (aka Pinkpasty)

LONDON – In May TWH reported on the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) three-year research project, “Bottles Concealed and Revealed” with a focus on “witch bottles,” which is being funded by the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council.

MOLA had publicly asked for anyone who has or discovers any “witch bottles” to contact them, as well as reaching out to those institutions and individuals who had collections of the bottles to include in their study.

A news story published last week detailed the story of a “witch bottle” found in Watford which is just north of London. Interestingly, the property where the bottle was found is connected to Angeline Tubbs, who is also known as The Witch of Saratoga.

Tubbs was born in Watford in 1761, but immigrated to the United States in 1776 with a British soldier she was engaged to, who abandoned her after Britain lost in the Revolutionary War. Tubbs ended up settling near Saratoga Springs, New York and developed a reputation as a witch because she survived by begging and telling fortunes, and shared her living space with a number of cats.

The Watford bottle recently found dates to the 19th century, so is clearly too new to have any connection to Tubbs. However, the practice of using “witch bottles” clearly traveled with emigrants from the United Kingdom as many historic buildings in New England have been found to contain not just bottles, but also a number of odd items that were encased within the walls, under roofs, and near chimneys when structures were built. It is believed that the placement of such items generally near an entrance or other openings within a structure, was to prevent negative energies from entering.

Researchers are now considering that at least some of these bottles, were connected more to medical practices of the time, than merely warding off magical attacks from “witches.” Nigel Jeffries, MOLA’s ceramics specialist, has said that considering references from various historical records and medical books of the time, the use of ingredients commonly found in the bottles–hair and fingernail clippings, metal or iron objects, and bodily fluids–reflect combining the ideologies of magical, astrological, and medicinal practices for a healthy home and family.

Ceri Houlbrook, a co-organizer of the MOLA project, while generally agreeing with Jefferies about the purpose of the bottles, also cautions against applying too wide a brush to all items found within the walls of structures. “I’d argue that we can’t lump any concealed objects together,” Houlbrook said. “I see shoes very differently to how I see mummified cats, for example. I don’t think we can interpret them in the same way at all.”

 

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Crossings of the Veil

Walter Mercado [YouTube]

Internationally syndicated Puerto Rican astrologer, Walter Mercado, crossed the Veil on November 2, 2019, at Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  His death was confirmed by the hospital spokesperson, Sofia Luquis.  He was 87.

Mercado was a flamboyant presence for over five decades on Latin American and Carribean television stations as well as Spanish language television in the United States.  Most recently, he presented the final segment of the Spanish news program, Primer Impacto, for 15 years covering spirituality topics and offering a daily horoscope for every astrological sign.

Mercado was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and discovered his spiritual powers as a child.  He attended the University of Puerto Rico and studied psychology, pedagogy, and pharmacy to learn about the powers of the human mind and the healing properties of plants.  He also studied singing, acting, and classical ballet which served him in brief acting and dancings career.

In 1970, Mercado was invited to perform a 15-minute show on astrology and an audience took notice.  Mercado offered intricately detailed horoscopes to his viewers with dynamic elocution, trilling his “r”s and wearing lavish outfits.  He moved to Miami and over the decades would become a syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald, a regular on the Univision Network, as well as do New Year’s Eve specials forecasting the year ahead and offering rituals for health, wealth and love.

He reached 120 million viewers daily.

Mercado was an icon in the LGBTQ+ community.  Though never declaring his sexuality publicly,  he challenged the conservative culture of Latin American stations demanding that everyone has a right to live the life they choose.  Professor Diana Taylor of New York University’s Tisch School of Performing Arts wrote in a 2003 critique “He endows the drag queen with papal authority.”

Ten years ago, he changes his name to Shanti Ananda, Sanskrit for “peace happiness”.  He told HuffPost that a “being of light” imparted his “authentic mystic name.”

Mercado never declared a particular spiritual tradition.  He would say that he was informed by Christianity, Judaism, Santeria, Hinduism, occult sciences. and magickal traditions.

He would often invite his viewers to empower themselves in his broadcasted readings such as “Soy un ser lleno de poder, suerte y bendiciones” [I am full of strength, luck and blessings] or “Yo tengo derecho a ser feliz” [I have the right to be happy].

Mercado famously closed his broadcasts with the same phrase. “God bless you today, tomorrow, and always.” He would then bring his hands to his lips and blow a kiss to his viewers, signing off with “Pero sobre todo, mucho, mucho, mucho amor.”

What is remembered lives!

 

 

In other news:

  • One day after the Staunton News Leader published a story about a new metaphysical store opening that planned to cater to Wiccans and Pagans and provide a safe place for those of like mind to shop and learn, the landlord voided the lease. Starfire’s Purple Moon Magick, owned by Brenda “Starfire” Stepp, who also owns Brenda’s Mom Too Be Maternity Shop, says she had leased the space with plans to run both businesses out of the same space, and that the landlord was aware of this. The landlord, John Eavers, says that he was not informed this was Stepp’s intent and that she signed the lease in name of the maternity shop, not the metaphysical shop. Eavers told Stepp she had to be out by last weekend, and both parties reported that the lease had been mutually terminated. Stepp is currently seeking a new space for her store and said she no longer felt welcome by other tenants of the shopping center.
  • For anyone who has ever wondered what it might be like to visit Salem, Massachusetts during Halloween, a photo gallery in an article from Boston University News Service contains some interesting shots.
  • Dazed Beauty ran an interesting article interviewing practicing Witches about their opinions on the attempts by companies like Sephora and Pinrose to commercialize and capitalize on the trendiness of magic and Witchcraft. The majority of Witches interviewed brought up the issue of cultural appropriation, and how capitalism tends to have a negative impact on the environment and the cultures it often ends up exploiting. A few felt that brands like Kat Von D Beauty did a fair job of offering decent products and represented the Witch culture positively, most suggested that if beauty companies intend to go further down this road, they hire actual Witches to guide them. Most said they prefer to buy the products they use from actual practitioners that produce their own lines.
  • A new trend in beer brewing may be the inclusion of Witchcraft and other magical practices in the brewing process. The research and development brewer, Natalie Rose Baldwin, at Breakside Brewery in Portland, Oregon, does not identify as a Witch or Pagan but chose to have a local coven do a midnight blessing under a full moon on the recent brew, Basic Witch. Burning Beard Brewing Company in San Diego, Pen Druid Brewing in Sperryville, Virginia, Holy Mountain Brewing in Seattle, Washington, and Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior, Wisconsin all incorporate some level of magical imagery or process in their brewing. While men dominate the craft-brewing industry, the majority of true magical practitioner brewers are women. Women and brewing have a long history, and it was only in recent history when brewing became profitable that most women were pushed out of the industry. If magical brews continue to grow in popularity, that may very well change.
  • Circle Sanctuary and Selena Fox announced that it is launching a new podcast on its Circle Sanctuary Network Podcasts (CSNP). The podcast, Nature Spirituality with Selena Fox premieres this Wednesday, November 6, at 7 pm and will feature “audio workshops, rituals, discussions, and interviews about different dimensions of Paganism, Wicca, Druidry, Ecospirituality, Animism and other sacred Nature paths.”

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

 

Deck: Tarot of Pagan Cats by Magdelina Messina, artwork by Lola Airaghi, published by Lo Scarabeo, Torino.

Card: Seven (7) of Wands

The week ahead has the potential to be triggering for some, prompting a display of defensiveness–which may or may not be warranted. Conversely, if the odds seem stacked against you, they may very well be so.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.